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Federal Election Commission Issues Ruling On Complaint Regarding Google’s Email Filter

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has issued a ruling recently in which they chose to dismiss a complaint coming from a number of Republican groups that alleges that Google unfairly went after GOP fundraising campaigns by filtering emails as spam at a much higher rate than those being sent out by Democrats.

The FEC issued a letter directly to Google last week in which they explained to the tech titan that the government “found no reason to believe” the allegations from the Republicans. The agency explained that any discrepancy found between Republican and Democratic fundraising emails being marked as spam was inadvertent, read a report from The Wall Street Journal.

“The Commission’s bipartisan decision to dismiss this complaint reaffirms that Gmail does not filter emails for political purposes,” explained José Castañeda, a spokesman for Google, to WSJ. “We’ll continue to invest in our Gmail industry-leading spam filters because, as the FEC notes, they’re important to protecting people’s inboxes from receiving unwanted, unsolicited, or dangerous messages.”

Officials with the Republican National Committee (RNC) submitted a complaint to the FEC targeting Google back in April. the GOP group highlighted a study from March 2022 carried out by North Carolina State University’s Department of Computer Science researchers.

“The study’s findings are shocking,” read the RNC complaint. “All three services displayed some disparity, with Outlook marking Democrat emails as spam approximately 27% more than Republican emails, and Yahoo marking Democrat emails as spam approximately 14% more. In comparison, however, Google’s Gmail truly stands apart, as it marked Republican emails as spam at more than an 820% higher rate than it marked emails from Democrat candidates.”

“Moreover, Gmail’s disparity increased as Election Day neared, with the percentage of Republican candidate emails marked as spam going up, while the percentage of Democrat emails marked as spam stayed constant,” it went on. “The study also finds that Gmail continued to mark Republican emails as spam even after users opened and read similar messages. This means that Gmail effectively blocked users from receiving messages from Republican candidates, even after those users took actions indicating that they wanted to receive them.”

The FEC finally ruled that the disparity being experienced was not intentional and only took place as the result of the spam filter for Google which is meant to go after malware, phishing scams, and other abusive or dangerous online behavior.

“Though the NCSU Study appears to demonstrate a disparate impact from Google’s spam filter, it explicitly states that its authors have ‘no reason to believe that there were deliberate attempts from these email services to create these biases to influence the voters,’” concluded the FEC in its recent letter issued to google, as reported by the WSJ.

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